Friday, February 10, 2012

Proud to be Black

Run-DMC was not the first rap group I ever heard, but they were the first that I actively listened to. To a little kid in a Pennsylvania redneck town like me, Run-DMC busted out the sickest jams around. Everyone else in my family had their own taste in pop music that was well represented in our household. My dad was in charge of supplying the records, but he would not bend to my requests to bring Metallica records into the fold. He did, however, come home with a handful of Run-DMC singles for me to listen to. Perhaps they would be the start of my establishing my own niche in the family music collection instead. At eight years old, I obviously knew nothing about rap music or its history. I just knew that I loved this new sound coming out of the radio speakers.
Hip-hop culture hit the mainstream like the atomic bomb in the mid ‘80s. Suddenly, redneck kids were attempting the Human Beat Box and walked around town with ghetto blasters like they were Radio Raheem in
Do the Right Thing. Run-DMC and LL Cool J battled it out to be the kings of this transition, at least until a trio of smartass white kids called the Beastie Boys hit it huge with a single called “Fight for Your Right (to Party).”
When I first moved to California in the late ‘80s, I found out the hard way that Run-DMC were already passé amongst my fellow little kid rap fans. Little did they know that none of their favorites would be relevant past 1990, rendered obsolete by hardcore gangsta rap. Run-DMC has managed to stand the test of time. I still overhear people listening to them occasionally.

Raising Hell
isn’t Run-DMC’s best album, but it is my favorite. The first four songs are classics, including the smash hit cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” Sure, the middle section drags, but “You Be Illin’” picks it back up. Unfortunately, “Dumb Girl” slows it right back down. Songs about dumb girls can be funny, but this one is, well, dumb. Maybe that was the point. “Proud to Be Black” closes the album on a high note. The normally lighthearted Run-DMC get serious with this rap, lyrically rejecting the slave mentality in favor of standing up for oneself and looking past things like skin color. Hopefully the human race will be able to cure the cancer of racism someday.

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